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PRESS RELEASE

International Women's Day Marked By Coalition Demonstration At L.A. Japanese Consulate

Contact: Martha Matsuoka
matsuoka (at) ucla.edu

LOS ANGELES (March 6, 2000) - Women representing The Women’s Forum, a network of Southern California community-based social service, advocacy, ethnic and labor organizations will rally at the offices of the Japanese Consulate on Wednesday, March 8, to deliver petitions demanding the demilitarization of Okinawa and apology and reparations for World War II “comfort women.” Members of the newly formed Women’s Forum have spent a month gathering support and have collected more than 300 petitions from all over the world.

The demonstration will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on March 8, 2000 at 350 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles. Protesters will be wearing white, a color of mourning, to symbolize the absence of justice for the comfort women and the people of Okinawa.

The protest seeks to draw attention to the criminal acts of violence against women – both past and present – committed by military forces. In World War II, the Japanese military forced more than 200,000 Korean, Chinese and Filipino women and girls into sexual slavery. These women and their descendants have never received an official apology or any form of redress.

The second issue focuses on the women and communities of Okinawa, Japan, who continue to be subjected to oppressive economic, social and environmental conditions caused by the presence of the US military on the island. The Okinawans have resisted militarization by China, Japan and the US for centuries and in 1998 cast a majority vote against the continued presence of the US military.

To mark International Women’s Day, the Women’s Forum will deliver hundreds of petitions to the Japanese Consulate, demanding:

  • An official apology and financial reparations to women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military
  • An end to the construction of the new heliport in Nago, Okinawa, and the removal of all US military bases on the island

“We feel the Japanese government must be accountable--past and present--for issues concerning militarization and justice,” said Suyapa Portillo, staff member, Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “The Women’s Forum is committed to bringing justice to women who are victims of militarism, not only in Asia, but also in Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and all over the world.”

“Our demands on behalf of the comfort women and for justice in Okinawa are an extension of our successful struggle to gain redress and reparations for Japanese Americans incarcerated in the United States during World War II,” says Janice Yen, of the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress. “We believe all governments must be held accountable for military acts that violate the human rights of women and others.”

The Women’s Forum is a newly formed network developed from a working group established at an education forum held December of 1999, entitled “Women’s Struggle Against Exploitation and for Justice.” Membership includes representatives from Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Okinawa Peace Network, Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking, GABRIELA, UCLA Labor Center and Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. The broad coalition of members, based in Los Angeles, seeks to raise awareness on international women’s issues. For information on the protest event or the Women’s Forum, contact Martha Matsuoka, matsuoka (at) ucla.edu.

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